My Say


15 APRIL 2017

Good evening and thank you all for coming and for allowing us to share this day with you. My name is Ian. My lovely wife sitting there is Theresa. I’m Elysia’s dad and Theresa is Elysia’s mum.

Theresa and I were both born and brought up in Klang, a town some 25-30km from KL in Malaysia. We both went to UNSW in Sydney. When we finished uni we returned to Malaysia but we moved back to Australia – to Melbourne – when Elysia was about 10 years old. Elysia went to school in Melbourne and finished high school in 2011. Like the cockies of Canberra, the calls of ANU were very loud – much louder than any that Melbourne could muster. Elysia heeded the call and so in January 2012 she left home in Melbourne to come to Canberra.

We’ve become more acquainted with Canberra since and we’re very happy we can all be here today. If you haven’t already guessed I’m here to make the father-of-the-bride speech so be warned and please bear with me. Make yourself comfortable and maybe pour yourself a full glass of wine.

Again, thank you all for coming. Many of you have made a gargantuan effort to be here. Please allow me to name some of you. To Theresa’s mum and dad as well as Theresa’s sister Chin Kheen and nephew Bryan, thank you for travelling all the way from Klang in Malaysia. To break it down, that journey is made up of an hour’s drive from their home to the KLIA airport, a 7 ½ hour flight to Melbourne, and another hour to Canberra. That’s quite a trek.

Likewise to my mum, my brother David and his wife Jean, my sister Sim and my niece Nicole (Sim’s daughter) who have all made an even more arduous odyssey by flying into Sydney from Malaysia and then driving from Sydney to Canberra, thank you. My mum had an unfortunate accident which left her with a fractured toe, some 6 weeks ago so making the journey has been even more of an odyssey. I appreciate that deeply.

I want to thank Theresa’s uncles, aunties and cousins who made their way here from Melbourne, my uncles, aunties and cousins who travelled from both Melbourne and Sydney, and our very dear friends who have travelled from Melbourne. I must mention my dear friends Alex and Li Har, who broke camp in Gippsland to drive up here with their four boys. Very few people I know have had to pack formal wear to a camping trip. Thank you Alex and Li har for the special effort. I’m sure many here tonight have likewise made great efforts to travel to Canberra. For all your efforts to be here in Canberra to celebrate this occasion with Elysia, Micaiah and ourselves, Theresa and I will be always grateful.

Lastly but not least and also by way of acknowledgement I want to say how appreciative I am of Micaiah’s parents, Desmond and Siew Lean and all they’ve done for Micaiah and Elysia – not just for today but for the whole time Elysia has been in Canberra. I understand Siew Lean has an awesome repertoire of dishes that would wow any connoisseurs of Malaysian cuisine. Elysia, Theresa and I have been beneficiaries of your extraordinary skills, as I’m sure everyone in your wonderful household has been. It is a privilege for Theresa and I to celebrate our families coming together tonight.

I’d like to tell you a few stories about Elysia when she was little. So please do fill your glass.

Once when she was not older than four, while we were in KL in Malaysia, she came along to my employer’s family day out. The event was held in a public park somewhere in KL.

There was a large children’s playground in a corner somewhere. There was a large monkey bar structure in that playground. It was made of steel tube box frames stacked on top of each other into a tall pyramid of sorts.

Elysia climbed up this structure and she was maybe 2-3 metres up this structure when she made the mistake of looking down instead of up. Her realisation of how high she’s climbed, caused her to verbalise her predicament and maybe her panic. That was the first time I heard her swear. I immediately learned a couple of lessons. First, a sweet little girl of 4 can swear. Secondly, she probably picked it up from her dad.

A second story is a bit similar. We were in a hotel on holiday, in Penang in Malaysia. The hotel had a swimming pool with a couple of slides. One climbs up a series of steps up to the top of the slide and slide down into the pool. Elysia was again probably 4 or 5. She excitedly made her way up the steps and fearlessly at first, sat down at the top of the slide. About a third of the way down, her face turned from one of excitement, to one of sheer fear. I think she realised at some point that the velocity of her descent into the pool was going to be considerably higher than she had expected. I stood at the end of that slide to assure her I was there to hold her but that look of fear on her face also, again, taught me a couple of lessons. First, a sweet little girl of 4, can swear. Second, I must protect this little girl from such fear, or help her deal with it.
The third and final story is a bit raw.

Elysia was maybe 3. We asked her if she liked to learn to play the piano and she was very excited about it.

Soon however that excitement evolved and became a phase of plain, painstaking work. I’d sit on the piano bench next to her as she practised. She’d find it hard going but I’d urge her on. She then wanted to stop but I made her go on. She would hit a wall and would be sobbing with tears as her dad made her carry on. It was a painful grind but she fought her tears and worked through what must have been painful barriers.

Before long however, she learned her pieces and was able to play. Nearly a couple of decades hence, when she goes back to our home in Melbourne, she’d play the piano we have in the study. Every time I hear her play and sense her enjoyment, I’d think of those tears she endured to be able to experience the joy of playing the piano, down the road. At such moments, I too felt pretty good.

Micaiah, these stories are for you. I hope you remember them long after tonight and when you do, you’d learn these lessons, as I did all those years ago.

First, Elysia swears. Or used to. I apologise because I’m almost certain she inherited that tendency from me.

Second, she likes to climb first and think of the descent later. She wants to reach ever higher. The person to support her, deal with the fears of descent and deal with her swearing, will now be you. Yeah, we’d probably swing by some time but for the most part, you’re it.

Third, her tears are worth the while. For her as well as for you. Sit next to her and help her through her painful grind and learn her pieces, wipe away her tears and you’d both reap the joyful outcomes. You’ll both know best when those tears should not stop you both and when they should, but if you just sit next to each other through the process, you’d both reap the benefits those tears bring.

Elysia those stories are also for you. I hope they’re stories you tell your children, so that your children don’t swear. Keep climbing ever higher. Help Micaiah do the same. Help each other on your descent and never be afraid to shed a tear in your efforts to learn new music in your lives.

Micaiah, when we first met I wondered about your American accent. I thought you’re another kid brought up by Marge and Homer Simpson. When we had dinner at Tilley’s and I offered to buy you a drink, you asked for a glass of white wine. That was in the middle of winter on a cold Canberra night. Soon I learned you don’t like football – of any code.

So I said to Theresa, our daughter is going out with a man who spoke with an American accent, has white wine with dinner in the middle of winter, doesn’t like footy and doesn’t appear to be carrying an ounce of fat anywhere.

When I start to peel away that caricature however, I started to see why Elysia wanted to spend the rest of her life with you.

You’re a sensitive, thoughtful, caring and loving man. You work hard, you always think of others first and most reassuringly, you know and love Jesus and work at getting others to know and love him. You even take very decent photographs and I hope you’ll find a way to make me look, on photos, like George Clooney one day.

So although you don’t like football, I’m very happy you’re the man Elysia has chosen to be her husband. Welcome to our family Micaiah and if you ditch trigger warnings and safe spaces, acquire a taste for Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and barrack for Hawthorn you’ll even be welcomed into the inner sanctum. You’d instantly double the population of this inner sanctum.

The speech template I downloaded from speech dot com says I am permitted to dispense advice. So here’s a couple.

Firstly, some of us in this room tonight will remember who Lionel Murphy was. He was the Attorney General in Gough Whitlam’s government. Thanks to Lionel Murphy, we now live under very liberal marriage terms. Under the Marriage Act, marriage is defined to mean the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. The Family Law Act passed under Lionel Murphy’s watch however, allows
either party to terminate that marriage contract, effectively for convenience. Sadly, many now exercise this right. I trust you both will commit to the truth that marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

Secondly, I’m sure you’ve heard that perfection is lots of little things done well. I hope the steady, daily grind of work, chores and tasks will be elevated as ideals in your new home. Yes, there will be extraordinary moments when exciting experiences will exalt you both. But those are highlights. When one watches clean bowls, 100th run strike, run-outs, in a 30 second clip of a cricket game highlights as part of a news story, one can easily forget that the footage was extracted from a 5-day test match. For the most part, every minute of those 5 days comprise hard grinding work. Elevate the constant, steady grind as ideals in your home and your lives will be far richer, even if not perfect.

With that, I wish you two a wonderful and blessed marriage. Can I please invite everyone to stand with full glasses in your hands to share this toast with me. (Mention Malaysian/Klang styled toast – Yum Seng)

Elysia and Micaiah, I raise my glass to you both to say, “Climb ever higher, stop swearing and shed plenty of tears of joy as you both make music together.